LA Weekly Review of West of Lincoln Project

An Artist Remembers Venice in the ’70s, When Growing Up Was an Act of Survival

Ruth Chase with two of her paintings at the opening of "West of Lincoln"

Ruth Chase with two of her paintings at the opening of “West of Lincoln”
Jennifer Swann

Eddie Hadvina points to the painting of himself as an 11-year-old Boy Scout. In it, he’s wearing an olive green cap and a red kerchief with his khaki uniform, a skateboard in one hand and a trophy in the other. On his left shoulder is a patch representing Venice’s Troop 34, which he joined at his mother’s insistence.

“That’s where all the trouble started,” says Hadvina, now 56 and sporting a gray goatee. “That’s where I met all my Venice Hoodlum friends,” he says, referring to a street gang that was active in the neighborhood in the 1970s.

Hadvina’s parents, both Hungarian immigrants, visited Venice on their honeymoon in 1960 — Hadvina says he was conceived during that trip — and decided to move there two years later. Hadvina discovered skateboarding when the sport was still brand-new and being pioneered in the neighborhood by people like Stacy Peralta, one of his peers. But Hadvina’s substance abuse problems weakened his chances of becoming a professional skateboarder.

“When I was a teenager I was really good at skateboarding and surfing,” he says. “But every time I showed up to skateboard, I’d never make it in [to the skate park] because they’d all be partying and I love partying.”

Hadvina, who on a recent Saturday wore a baseball cap and a T-shirt printed with images of the Venice Skate Park, is one of the subjects featured in artist Ruth Chase’s exhibition “West of Lincoln.” The show of a dozen paintings and accompanying audio portraits, which opened earlier this month and runs through Sept. 10 at the nonprofit Venice Arts gallery, seeks to tell the stories of people who grew up west of Lincoln Boulevard in the 1970s, when the neighborhood was better known for poverty, gang violence and a burgeoning youth skating culture than for billion-dollar tech companies, designer boutiques and trendy restaurants.

Like Hadvina, many others featured in Chase’s project experienced violence and addiction to drugs and alcohol from a young age. Some spent years trying to recover from habits they picked up on the streets of Venice. Nearly all recall a tough, eclectic neighborhood that felt nothing like the wealthy, sterilized enclave it is today.

“Most people either dealt with drive-by shootings — I got jumped — or knew somebody that died because of a gunshot or a knife, a stabbing,” says Chase, who grew up in the neighborhood in the ’70s and describes the culture as one of survival. “We always used to say, you go east of Lincoln to see green lawns and two parents.”

“You had to have a little bit of an edge or you’d get picked on,” says David Fowler, one of the people Chase featured in the show. “You had to hold your own, and people had to know that you were tough enough not to mess with.”

At the same time, Venice Beach was attracting free-spirited 20- and 30-somethings who moved there from across the country to live the so-called hippie lifestyle and find work on the boardwalk, with its tourist-friendly arcade games and cafes. “They experience Venice entirely different than a local does,” Chase says. “It was a weird contrast.”

Skateboarders David Fowler, left, and Eddie Hadvina

Skateboarders David Fowler, left, and Eddie Hadvina
Jennifer Swann

The first time Chase noticed Abbot Kinney becoming a destination was when Hal’s Bar and Grillopened on the block — then known simply as Washington Boulevard — when she was still a teenager. “We were on welfare. My mom, she didn’t read or write, she didn’t drive a car, and Hal’s moved in and it was like, ‘Wow, this is a cool fancy new place,’” Chase says. “I remember taking my mom there and realizing she couldn’t afford to eat there.”

Rhonda Lynn Wise, one of the subjects featured in the show, says it’s no wonder the area gentrified so quickly: It’s home to beachfront property. And yet, for years, she says, “West of Lincoln was a ghost town. That’s where the Latinos and the blacks and the surfers lived.”

Venice began to shed its ghost-town reputation in the 1990s, when developers swooped in aggressively. “Venice was the type of town where you passed your property down to your family,” Wise says. “When these developers came in, they put very large price tags on these homes. When someone offers you a million dollars for your home, you’re probably going to sell it.”

Rhonda Lynn Wise stands next to the painting inspired by her life.

Rhonda Lynn Wise stands next to the painting inspired by her life.
Jennifer Swann

Wise says her family never owned property, and she still marvels at the fact that her single mother was able to raise three kids in a three-bedroom apartment near the beach for about $300 a month. “It’s unheard of now,” she says.

Chase, who now lives in Northern California, came up with the idea for the “West of Lincoln” project during a visit to Abbot Kinney in 2014 — just a year before Hal’s was priced out of the block and was forced to relocate to Playa Vista. Chase found herself standing in the middle of the street, disoriented by what she was seeing: high-end shops and restaurants in every direction. When she returned home, she wanted to find other people who could relate to the quaint, scary, weird Venice of her childhood. She thought maybe they all shared similar experiences growing up, and she wondered how those experiences might have affected them as adults. She posted ads on Facebook and Craigslist seeking people willing to be interviewed and then painted. Getting them to trust her wasn’t easy.

“What I’d hear was, ‘Well, who the fuck are you?’” Chase says, imitating her critics. “‘What do you want? You’re just part of that motherfucking gentrification and you’re just gonna tell our stories and make money off it.’”

But word-of-mouth spread and Chase eventually found a group that agreed to participate, but only after she proved that she was one of them: a Venice native with no monetary incentive. It helped that she also guaranteed her subjects full creative input over the final result. Chase conducted interviews and then hired a writer, Gena Lasko — thanks to a grant from the Carl Jacobs Foundation — to condense them into short biographies.

Chase’s paintings are not intended as acts of realism but representations of each person’s upbringing and most transformational experiences. Hadvina, for example, is portrayed as a Boy Scout, but behind him is an adult silhouette referencing his present. The silhouette is painted to look like water, a nod to the empty swimming pools he got in trouble for skating in as a kid.

Chase’s painting of Fowler, a skateboarder who also struggled with drugs and alcohol, depicts him flying through the air on his board. On the bottom of his deck are the faces of his wife, children and parents. The visual is a metaphor for his support of his family through various health crises, including both his wife’s and his mother’s ovarian cancer diagnoses several years ago. Now a real estate agent in Venice, Fowler says he’s lucky to raise his kids in the same neighborhood where he and his wife both grew up, especially now that he can teach them not to repeat the same mistakes he made.

“Our kids go to the same elementary school we went to 40 years ago. It’s so amazing,” he says, “to be an example to them so they don’t have to suffer the way we did.”

After all these years, Hadvina and Fowler haven’t given up on their skater roots. They both ride for Santa Monica Airlines Skateboards and Hadvina still competes in competitions aimed at older skaters. Sober for more than two decades, it’s as if they’re getting to redo the childhoods they never had.

“We’re still doing airs out of pools,” Hadvina says. “We’re skating like kids.”

The closing reception for “West of Lincoln” is Sun., Sept. 10, 10 a.m.-noon, at Venice Arts, 13445 Beach Ave., Marina del Rey; (310) 392-0846, venicearts.org.

BELONGING at Nevada City Film Festival

WE ARE PROUD TO ANNOUNCE
BELONGING WILL BE AT THE
NEVADA CITY FILM FESTIVAL

BELONGING was documented by Cinematographer Radu Sava and Artist Ruth Chase featuring Rick Berry, Jeff Brown, Jonathan CollierShelly Covert, Philip Oyung, Nancy Tiken Lopez, Elisa ParkerAimee RetzlerMike Stewart and Rob Thompson.

#BelongingInNevadaCounty
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Beyond the Frame – Museum of Northern California Art – Panel Discussion

I am so out of my mind excited to say that I will have the most challenging paintings I have ever made exhibiting in the Museum of Northern California Art. I am so proud to be representing VENICE in this exhibition about the value of street art to our communities.

MUSEUM OF NORTHERN CALIFORNIA ART
900 ESPLANADE
CHICO, CA, 95926 (MAP)

Beyond the Frame Panel Discussion | August 26
INVITATION

Beyond the Frame Exhibition
July 19 – September 2, 2018
INVITATION

Microsoft_Word

SEE and hear more about Leonard

“Never Forget Where You Come From, Always Remember Where You’re Going” by Ruth Chase will be exhibiting this month at part of Beyond the Frame. Street art often has a reputation as part of a subculture that rebels against authority, although it can also express a political practice, and serves as just one tool in an array of resistance techniques.

Like some forms of street art, murals are often collaborative and collective art pieces, functioning to empower social bonding, an assertion of a community’s presence in a certain space, and articulate a community’s stance on local and global topics such as historical events and civil rights. Some murals have also been created in defiance to the law (like street art), as others have been commissioned by businesses or other patrons. It can be argued that public art of both categories can add aesthetic improvement to the daily lives of residents, and visitors to the community.

By virtue of being visually provocative or beautiful, public artworks may be easier magnets for community support and thereby effective political tools. For the communities it exists in, public art also provides access to beauty, creative work, and cultural pride.

I BELONG HERE Pop Up Photos

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A pop up installation where Ruth gave hugs, postcards, and took photos.
This backdrop was painted by Ruth and photos were taken to share the value individuals have in our communities.  The public was encouraged to hang their photo at home where it can be seen as a reminder of their importance.

 

#IBelongHere 

Please email Ruth your I BELONG HERE images from wherever you are RuthChaseFineArt@ymail.com

Racial Literacy | BELONGING to the Land

RACIAL LITERACY CAFE ON BELONGING TO THE LAND
Sunday, July 29, 3-5p
Summer Thyme’s
Colfax Ave., Grass Valley, CA
 
Inspired by Ruth Chase’s ambitious multi-media installation about the land we live on and the notion of belonging, Racial Literacy, Nevada County offers a free, facilitated community conversation in the World Café style at Summer Thyme’s where the BELONGING Community Exhibition, curated by Ruth is on display.
 
We are collaborating with Chase to expand her artistic intention by creating the opportunity for local residents to experience, as she states, “powerful insights that allow people to find a sense of belonging within their community.” We also welcome Nevada City Rancheria Secretary Shelly Covert. 
 
Join us to talk with each other in a real and candid way about our own sense of belonging along with our relationships with the Nisenan people and this beautiful region that the Nisenan have called “home” for thousands of years.
 
This community conversation is free and open to the public. Space is limited. The kitchen closes at 4:00pm. Arrive early to place food and drink orders and reserve your seat.
 
Racial Literacy explores race, privilege, and oppression by hosting community conversations and storytelling gatherings. We believe in the power of education, open dialogue, and deep listening as tools to heal and release the shame and discomfort experienced around discussions of race. From this place of honesty, we can be better activated as a community to show up for racial justice in our daily lives, as well as on larger systemic levels.  For more information, find Racial Literacy on Facebook.  

Nevada County artist Ruth Chase launches new project, I AM HERE

Very appreciative of The Union and Liz Kellar for featuring this article. Liz actually came to my studio and we sat down to talk, imagine that, a real conversation.
Photos taken by Dee Anne Dinelli

BELONGING Year 2 – I AM HERE LAUNCHES
“We worked hard to produce a grant application which expanded upon the first year of our program, Belonging,” said Eliza Tudor, executive director at Nevada County Arts Council, said. “This particular program … demands that the artist expose his or her community not only to art, but art in connection with ideas that shine a light on both our individuality and our sense of togetherness — our ‘belonging.'”

During the year-long project, Chase will act as lead artist to elicit perspectives through the use of social media, public art-making salons, a short film, and a culminating interactive public installation.

As with her earlier projects, Chase will use social media as part of the process, saying it is a good way to reach a broader community to participate in the conversation.

She stressed that I AM HERE is very much meant to be a conversation, and not necessarily one that comes up with any answers. And as part of that, she is striving to make the dialogue as broad-based and wide-ranging as possible by including a wide spectrum of participants.

“It’s a conversation we often don’t get to have anymore,” Chase said. “We usually only do with those who are like us.”

The participants include Cassie Angle, Elma Eden Baker; girls from The Friendship Club; Virginia Rose Covert from the Nisenan tribe; Isis Indriya; and Kayle Martin.

“The women and girls involved will come up with the specifics,” she said. “I want it to be their great idea, not mine. I hope the stories and the insights will touch different kinds of women in different ways”

READ MORE

We Got The GRANT

OMG, We Got The Grant. Super grateful for Eliza Tudor, Nevada County Arts Council and California Arts Council for making this happen. BELONGING will have a year two. More to come soon.

This year, the California Arts Council offered opportunities for funding in 14 unique grant program areas, fostering safe and healthy communities, arts learning, and equitable access to the arts.

“To show support for these organizations—the ones who inspire and make those crucial connections to creativity and culture within our communities-it’s a confirmation of our faith in and gratitude for that vision,” said Nashormeh Lindo, California Arts Council Chair. “This is without a doubt the most fulfilling aspect of our work as Council Members each year, to recognize those doing real, organic work to make a difference for the people of California.”

Fiscal Year 2017-18 Grant Programs and Awards WE’RE ON THE LIST !!

This is the description of the grant that I will be working with as Artist in Residence with Nevada County Arts Council. Our project is called BELONGING Year Two – I AM HERE.

Artists in Communities: Artists in Communities (formerly Artists Activating Communities) supports sustained artistic residencies in community settings, demonstrating that artists are integral to healthy communities and that the arts are a societal cornerstone that brings people together, builds community, and fosters social progress. It centralizes artists and their artistic processes as vehicles for community vitality. Projects are artist-driven, and engage community members as active participants.

PRESS


Yes, SHE Persisted

SHE Persisted an event by YubaLit  |  Featuring Author Bridget Quinn

Yuba Lit She Persisted by Ruth Chase .jpg
Ruth Chase on May 31, 2018 at SHE Persisted

This is an essay I read at SHE Persisted about how I overcame a time in my life when I was the most discouraged and wanted to give up being an artist. It starts and ends with a self portrait I painted that changed my life and was the first step I took to create my own “rags to riches” journey. Well, not so much not riches in the form of money.

Stronger Than You Realize large file Detail copy
“Stronger Than You Realize” close up

Spring 2015: I’m on the back end of my 40s and this time I’m going to really give up. Pursuing an art career feels hopeless, and the uphill battle I’m fighting right now is more than I can handle. It’s 4:00 am Monday morning—hot coffee, cell phone, Facebook app and the dog. Every week my husband will be gone from Monday til Thursday or Friday. I’ve committed to homeschooling our only child; I feel lost, I feel alone. Every bit of my spiritual energy is being given to our beautiful daughter who will turn 10 in May. I had no idea that motherhood would take this long or be this hard, that I would feel so disconnected from my dreams and my art. I’ll be 50 before yah know it; I don’t have the time or energy to pick up a paintbrush. “Who am I kidding? Get a real job! I’ll never be a working artist.” I’ve been through this before, but this time it’s different.

1967aprox Ruth Chase Fine Art Venice Beach CA. copy
Venice Boardwalk
Ruth Chase
1971

When I was six, my home was on the Venice boardwalk, and within me was a well of strength I would not realize I had until I was older, much older. To be totally honest, I was at my very strongest then. I wanted to be the first woman president when I grew up. At that age, dreaming big was easy. The fact that my tutu matched my bodysuit was enough affirmation for me to believe that I could do or be anything. I remember that dance outfit like it was yesterday; I remember the empowering feelings that went with it, too. It seems like it was the only time in my life where my dreams belonged to me and I was in them wholeheartedly, against all odds.

Summer: There are signs that the demands of motherhood are changing. I’ll try to paint a self-portrait of that little girl. The one who dreamed big dreams.

SFAI 1987.jpg
San Francisco Art Institute
“No Utopia Here”, oil on canvas, 1987

In the late 80’s, I was a student at the San Francisco Art Institute. I wanted to be an artist with a gallery and be in a museum; I wanted to fill my life with conceptual artist friends and travel the world, eating exotic foods and drinking too much wine. Every idea I had about being an artist came from school, a book, or someone else’s life already lived. As the years go by, I no longer fit into that dream; in fact, I don’t have time to dream.

Fall, I am almost done with the self-portrait. It makes me cry for months, will it ever stop crying? I go with it. I paint, and paint for hours over weeks and into months, one painting turns into 13, turns into a whole installation with audio and video.

Venice Arts Gallery Left Wall West of Lincoln Project by Ruth Chase copy

 

Venice Tribute Wall close up copy
West of Lincoln Project Paintings and Venice Tribute Wall
Venice Arts Gallery
2017

It’s August again, I’m 52, I’m having my first solo exhibition today, the LA Weekly will be there. I try to stay present as 400 people attend. That’s a lot of hands to shake, my feet are hurting me in the killer shoes that tell the world “I still got it.”  The following morning I will wake up to some 500 texts with my name tagged all over Facebook and Instagram, they will keep coming for the rest of the day and throughout the following weeks. The City of LA will mail me a Certificate of Appreciation for that one self portrait that turned into the West of Lincoln Project. I never saw any of this coming.

How Do You Identify by Ruth Chase

 

Fragmented by Ruth Chase
“Fragmented”
“How Do You Identify”
acrylic on canvas, 2018

Today I embark on a project called I AM HERE, about how women maintain their sense of belonging. It’s no coincidence that I am working with the theme of BELONGING, because that has been the theme of my life. Perhaps the theme of life?

Three years ago, I had no body of work and 30 years of a whole lota nothing on my resume. Two years ago, I embarked on a dream bigger than I could have imagined—a dream where I belonged to my art.

Stronger Than You Realize by Ruth Chase
“Stronger Than You Realize”
acrylic on canvas, 2015

Here’s my self portrait, “Stronger Than You Realize.” I realize now that I AM stronger than I ever thought. I did not find it in a book or a movie; I found it by letting go of an old story, one that was never meant for me, and moving forward, one tiny brave step at a time, toward my dreams. The dreams that were meant for me.


 

Bridget Quinn is an Art Historian that delves into the lives and careers of 15 brilliant female artists in her book Broad Strokes. Learn moreThese images were taken at SHE Persisted on May 31st at the Stone House for YubaLit.

EVENTS

Beyond the Frame STREET PARTY | July 20
Museum of Northern California Art
July 19 – September 2, 2018
INVITATION

WORLD CAFE Racial Literacy | July 29
BELONGING to the LAND
Summer Thyme’s Gallery, 231 Colfax Ave, Grass Valley, CA
3 – 5pm
INVITATION

BELONGING EXHIBITION
Through July 30th
Summer Thyme’s Gallery, 231 Colfax Ave, Grass Valley, CA

50 Miles | September 21 &  22
Polly’s Paladar, Nevada City, CA
Three Forks Chefs, Craig Day & Sean Dockery, Magician Nick Fedoroff, Art by Ruth Chase
Proceeds to Sierra Harvest.
INVITATION

B E L O N G I N G  |  TBD
Film Screening


SHE PERSISTED  |  May 31
Bold Women Artists
May 31, 7:30p
INVITATION

BARNSTORM 2018 | June 1
Ellensburg, Washington
INVITATION

I BELONG HERE  Pop Up|  July 6
FIRST FRIDAY ART WALK  Downtown Nevada City
Across from JJ Jacksons, in front of bike rack.
INVITATION


Image: Makayla Miracle,
Performance at Barnstorm 2017

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BELONGING Exhibition

R U T H C H A S E
B E L O N G I N G
Community Exhibition | Film Screening

Facebook Invitation
Press

 

May 2 – July 30

On May 2, Nevada County Arts Council will present the work of Ruth Chase in an artist-led community exhibition. This exhibition is the culmination of a year’s work—traveling, interviewing, painting, organizing, documenting. Alongside Ruth’s large-scale acrylic paintings will be a meaningful collaboration of work from the community: paintings, drawings, sculpture, letters, poetry, photography and video. A short film by Ruth Chase and Radu Sava will emerge as the centerpiece of this year-long inquiry of what it means to belong to the land in Nevada County. The exhibition runs through July 30th.

BELONGING is about our vulnerable mountain home. Ruth worked with the people who tend it, love it and depend on it, mobilizing perspectives to create a deeper sense of connection between the members of our community and the land we all share. Belonging is an initiative of Nevada County Art Council led by Artist Ruth Chase, generously funded in part by California Arts Council through its Artists Activating Communities Program.

Through social media, Ruth posted a weekly Saturday morning question that engaged the community in finding a sense of belonging here in Nevada County. The interactions and responses of this group informed the project’s outcome. In addition, ten featured participants were interviewed by Ruth about their direct relationship with the land in Nevada County. In the short film by Ruth and Radu, each person reflects on their connection to the land and how it relates to their sense of belonging. Lori Lachman followed the project, taking photographs of the people and of the places that Ruth and Radu traveled throughout the year of the Belonging project. These photographs will be on display during the exhibition.

Ruth Chase lives and works in Nevada County. In 2017, Ruth completed the West of Lincoln Project that was awarded a Certificate of Appreciation from the City of Los Angeles for Art in Action. She was also awarded a grant to an individual artist from the Carl Jacobs Foundation. She was granted a residency at the Millay Colony for the Arts in NY, was published in Professional Artist Magazine, Catapult Art Magazine and Huffington Post, and has taught at the Crocker Art Museum, and she was a featured sketch artist on the Dead Files television program. Most recently she was awarded an Artist-in-Residence at Nevada County Arts for Artist Activating Communities through a grant from the California Arts Council for the BELONGING project. Ruth is a graduate of the San Francisco Art Institute.

BELONGING EXHIBITION
May 2 – July 30
Summer Thyme
231 Colfax Ave, Grass Valley, CA

OPENING RECEPTION
Sunday, May 20 3-5p
INVITATION

FILM SCREENING
Sunday, May 20 2-3p
With filmmaker Radu Sava, Ruth Chase and featured participants of the film: Rick Berry, Jeff Brown, Jonathan CollierShelly Covert, Philip Oyung, Nancy Tiken Lopez, Elisa ParkerAimee RetzlerMike Stewart and Rob Thompson.

ARTISTS EXHIBITING
Lori Lachman, Masha Lewis, Bill Jacobson, Ashely Foreman, Jude Bischoff, Sherri Dauphinais, Peggy Wright, Ron Kenedi, Amy Mills, Robert Finn, Al Martinez, Anna Snelgrove, Jennifer Rugge, Lisa Barker, Erin Sorani, Linda Leith, Dodie Johnston, Sarah Clark, Pamela J Bradford, Boni Woodland, and Ruth Chase


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ABOUT BELONGING
Facebook Group for BELONGING
INSTAGRAM

How drugs and growing up on welfare brought me to working with community.

On March 7th I headed to Mi Pueblo in Nevada City to meet Brian Buckley for dinner. Brian is very involved in the community, having been a principal at several schools and on the Board of Directors for many organizations, to name a few, The Friendship Club and Nevada County Arts Council where he served as Executive Director as well. We met to talk about Sages Among Us on KVMR, then head to the studio for a live interview. on the weekly show. Typically I’m terrified of public speaking, so while the opportunity was great, I wasn’t all that excited. At the beginning of the interview I kept saying UM, UM, I was so nervous, but in the end I was able to open up and talk about a few things that I don’t usually speak about publicly. Here is the podcast if you care to listen to it.


 

Three part interview with Brian Buckley on KVMR